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UN urges Morocco and Algeria to held stranded Syrians

Dozens of Syrian refugees have been stranded at the Morocco-Algeria border for weeks [AFP]

Date of publication: 31 May, 2017

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The United Nations' refugee agency has urged North African neighbours to provide safe passage to dozens of Syrians who are stranded in a border zone between Algeria and Morocco.

The United Nations' refugee agency on Tuesday urged Morocco and Algeria to provide safe passage to dozens of Syrian refugees trapped in no-man's land between the two feuding countries.

"Prompt action by both governments is needed in facilitating the immediate and safe passage of the forty-one vulnerable Syrian refugees," UNHCR said in a statement.

"We urge Algeria and Morocco to work with us on ending this dangerous and untenable situation for these stranded desperate Syrian refugees," it added.

According to the refugee agency, the stranded group includes "children, babies and women - including at least one pregnant woman reportedly in need of urgent Caesarean section".

UNHCR added taht the Syrian refugees have been "exposed to the elements and the serious threat of scorpions and snakes" since 17 April.

Initially, Morocco accused its neighbour of expelling the refugees to "sow trouble" and "generate an uncontrollable flow of migrants".

Algeria "categorically" rejected the allegations as false.

The accusations sparked a diplomatic spat between the two countries, whose relations have generally remained tense over the Western Sahara territorial dispute.

Due to this disagreement, in which Algeria has sided with the seperatist Polisario group against Morocco's territorial sovereignty claim, the two countries' mutual border has been closed since 1994.

UNHCR said it understood neither country considered the Syrians to be in their territory, but called "for action to bring the group to safety on humanitarian grounds".

The UN agency was "ready to offer its 'good offices' to coordinate this life-saving evacuation".

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